234 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
as a painter would paint it on his canvas, and conceal a trick
of perspective by using some objects in the foreground ("the
man's face55 and "the horse's head") to set off the distant view.
Entirely apart from the poetic feeling that the man is so high
up in the mountains, one realizes that the scenery was looked
at by the poet as if it were a piece of painting on a flat surface.
The reader would then see, as he actually sees in paintings or
snapshots, that hilltops seem to rise from the man's face and
the clouds nestling somewhere in the distance form a line
broken by the horse's head. This clearly was not possible if
the poet was not on horseback and the clouds were not lying
on a lower level in the distance. In the end, the reader has to
imagine himself on horseback on a high mountain path and
view the scene from the same perspective as the poet did.
In this way, and really through this trick of perspective,
these pen-pictures gain a bold relief impossible with other
methods. It cannot be said that the Chinese poets were
conscious of the theory of this technique, but had in any case
found the technique itself. Hundreds of examples might be
cited. With this technique of perspective, Wang Wei (699-
759)> probably China's greatest descriptive poet, said:
In the mountains a night of rain,
And above the trees a hundred springs.
Of course, it requires a little effort to imagine "springs on tree-
tops" (which are the exact words in the original); but exactly
because such a perspective is so rare and can only be found
when high mountain gorges, forming, after the previous night's
rainfall, a series of cascades in the distance, appear above the
outline of some trees in the foreground, the reader gains a
clear perspective otherwise impossible. As with the former
example from Li Po, the art lies in the selection of an object
in the foreground to set it off against the objects in the distance,
like clouds, cascades, hilltops and the Milky Way, and then
painting these together on a fiat surface. Thus Liu Yuhsi (772-
[For an] autumn scene: several dots of hills
over the wall.